‘The Rockford Files’: How James Garner Buying Two Semi-Trucks Completely ‘Changed the Production’

by Joe Rutland

James Garner played private investigator Jim Rockford in the 1970s classic TV series The Rockford Files but he also watched over it. Garner, who also appeared in movies like The Americanization of Emily and Support Your Local Gunfighter, knew how things worked on sets. With his vast experiences, one way Garner watched out for things on his show was from a production aspect.

The actor, in an interview with the Archive of American Television, said production of the show happened all over Los Angeles and Universal Studios. Out of six days for production work, Garner said that they were out on location for three to four days. When asked if there was time for rehearsals, Garner said no there wasn’t.

James Garner Of ‘The Rockford Files’ Says Show Just Went Over Schedule Three Days

“You might have time for a rehearsal if you’re doing a pilot,” Garner said. “That’s it. After that, you’re on your own. Oh, we’d get pages, but they were trims and whatever. As a matter of fact, I think were three days over schedule in six years.” He said that everything on the show went smoothly. Garner also oversaw putting together a crew that worked together on the drama.

“And I changed the production in that I cut out eight drivers and trucks,” he said. “I mean, we were outside four days a week and where do you park all these trucks? You know, all these drivers cost you money.” Garner would change things up by purchasing two semi-trucks. What he did also might have foreshadowed what others would do in later years. Garner separated the space in the semis so that three or four different departments could be in there. Wardrobe, makeup, and others might just find a spot in the semis.

James Garner, left, as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files with Joe Santos, who played Dennis Becker. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

Show’s Star Says Changes Led Universal Studios To Look At Efficiency Situation

Garner said his work cut out all those other trucks being used. He adds that the show was being produced on schedule and on budget. This all led Universal Studios to want to do some snooping. The actor said the studio sent out efficiency experts in the show’s second year to see how The Rockford Files did this.

“There were two things involved,” he said. “We cut down all this transportation and mess. And, oh they were upset about it. Because they had a deal with the union to hire so many people. [The] Union came to me and I said, ‘Why should I spend my money on something I don’t need, gentlemen? Don’t need them at all.’ And they end up making me an honorary Teamster.”